News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

The Two-Way

Trump Advocates For Public Service On MLK Day, But Spends It At Mar-A-Lago Resort


President Trump spent the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. Previous presidents have marked the holiday doing volunteer work.
Nicholas Kamm, AFP/Getty Images

President Trump spent the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. Previous presidents have marked the holiday doing volunteer work.

Updated at 1:40 a.m. ET Tuesday

Some members of the Trump administration started off the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. at a wreath-laying ceremony at the civil rights leader's memorial in Washington Monday. But the president's first stop was his own golf club.

Trump signed a federal holiday proclamation at the White House on Friday where he praised King for his leadership in the civil rights movement. And, in words that echoed every president before him since 1994, Trump encouraged "all Americans to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King's extraordinary life."

Yet, it appears Trump ignored his own inspiring message. He spent most of the day at his own Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Although he retweeted an official White House video in which he pays tribute to King, there is no indication he intends to participate in any public services before returning to Washington in the afternoon.

While Vice President Mike Pence's also remained under the radar on Monday, he and his wife Karen visited the MLK memorial on Sunday. They laid a wreath of their own at the statue of Dr. King.

The absence of volunteer plans by the president is especially glaring as he faces accusations of racism following reports that he made derogatory comments about Haiti and African nations.

Support comes from

He has since denied those reports and on Sunday told reporters, "I am the least racist person you will ever interview."

But his refusals have done little to stem criticism from leaders at King's former church in Atlanta. As Molly Samuel of member station WABE reports, the Rev. Raphael Warnock addressed the congregation gathered Monday morning at the Ebenezer Baptist Church saying, "I was still reeling in the reports just hours earlier about a volcanic eruption of hate speech spewing out of the mouth of the same man."

Warnock called on the president to repent. "A proclamation without an apology is hypocrisy," he said to widespread applause.

Several members of Congress took to Twitter to relay what they were doing in honor of King.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin joined City Year Chicago volunteers.

California Sen. Kamala Harris attended a Times Up event in Los Angeles, and served as the grand marshal of the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in South LA, one of the biggest in the nation.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker launched a new podcast called, "Lift Every Voice." His first guest was Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., praised King's life and work and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio sent out a series of tweets quoting the civil rights leader.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson toured King's birth home with his wife and spoke at a nearby historic firehouse.

Ronald Reagan signed the bill that made King's birthday a national holiday in 1983, and it was first observed in 1987. In 1994, under Bill Clinton, Congress designated the day as a Day of National Service. Since then presidents have undertaken various public service endeavors to mark King's birthday and the legacy he left behind.

George W. Bush volunteered at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., and Barack Obama helped out at a homeless shelter.

Dr. King, shot dead 50 years ago in April, would have turned 89 today.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories

KNPR's State of Nevada
Feb 24, 2004

MLK Oratory